Future Thoughts: E-waste and Sustainability


This post marks the beginning of a week-long series on recommerce and sustainability. An innovative recommerce program can not only boost profits; it can also do much to prevent e-waste from entering the environment. With recommerce, smart business is also green business.

What E-waste & Sustainability Mean For The Environment

Nearly everyone has at least one or two consumer electronics. Smartphones, laptops and tablets can be found in almost every home in the United States. But what happens when there’s no longer a need for these otherwise useful electronics? Many people just toss them in the dumpster, transforming yesterday’s hot new item into today’s e-waste.

The term “e-waste” refers to those consumer electronics that have reached the end of their useful life. Proper management of e-waste and sustainability of the environment are not just buzz-words; they are incredibly important concepts that must be addressed.

Hidden Poisons

Why? Because consumer electronics contain harmful materials. Most consumer electronics contain substances such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, beryllium, barium, chromium, nickel, zinc, silver and gold. Many of these elements are used in the circuit boards, computer chips and wiring. Most electronic devices also contain flame-retardant chemicals that can also harm the environment.

When consumer electronics are discarded improperly, they often end up in landfills and the harmful chemicals contained in them leach out. Over time, these substances make their way into the groundwater and the atmosphere and can pose serious health issues for humans, animals and plants.

The Damage Is Incremental

A term that is used in the scientific community is bioaccumulation. What this means is that living organisms accumulate toxic substances within their bodies at a faster rate than they are able to get rid of them. In humans, this accumulation can lead to a myriad of problems from birth defects to cancer.

In order to minimize the effects of e-waste, it is of the utmost importance that electronics are simply not thrown away, but rather, recycled or re-used in some way. In many communities around the country, there are recycling centers set up just for the purpose of dealing with e-waste. There are also companies that pay consumers for their unwanted electronics. A common way of doing this is to offer trade-ins or other incentives.

One Man’s Trash Is Another’s Treasure

In many cases, our old, unwanted electronics are simply out of date, but they are still in good working order. Although the technology may be outdated in the United States, that does not mean that they do not have any value. In fact, there is a huge market for these devices and they very often can be sold on secondary markets in emerging countries where they are very desirable.

In some cases, the electronics are not working and cannot be used at all. When this is the case, they can be broken down into components that can be used to create new gadgets. Circuit boards, batteries and other parts that are still viable are good candidates for this process. The parts that cannot be re-used such as the plastic or metal cases, are then recycled and used for other products, perhaps in other industries.

Recommerce Helps Mitigate Waste

In order for companies and individuals to assure a future of sustainability in terms of the environment as well as economics, e-waste management is a must. There is no reason to believe that the production of consumer electronics will diminish over time; in fact, it’s predicted to increase exponentially over the coming decades. One of the best ways for us to mitigate the damages that our demand for devices creates is by embracing recommerce fully.

Sourcely is a leader in the recommerce industry, and we work with small and medium sized businesses to help them realize generous profits from sustainable buyback programs. To find out more about e-waste and its impacts on the environment or to discuss recommerce, contact us.

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Nima Jacob Nojoumi

Teen Entrepreneur. Former adviser @GoDaddy. Founder at House of Genius AZ @HofGAZ. Co-Founder & CEO @GetSourcely. Teamwork makes the dream work.